The ‘desire to create something’: El Gazelle on making good music, good lyrics and good times in Manchester

By Michael Halpin

El Gazelle are onto something. 

Right now, they are successfully fusing together their love of garage rock, psychedelia and mod, throwing it into a melting pot with what they admire from 2013 and creating a music that is their very own. 

On Saturday August 3 they release their first single ‘Beat Goes On’ through Scruff of The Neck Records and a launch night is taking place at The Night and Day Café, Northern Quarter, Manchester on the same evening.

I spent a couple of days with El Gazelle recently where they told me how they felt about their first release, how the foundations for El Gazelle are based on friendship and a love of the same music rather than a desire to simply play in a band. We spoke about what influences them, the reaction they receive playing live and where they want to go next as a band.

Sitting in Chorlton’s Royal Oak on a sunny Friday afternoon in Manchester, El Gazelle told me how Beat Goes On came into being. Written primarily by guitarists Rick Hyde and Lee Morse, Rick explained how the song came about: “It was written in 2012 after the International Pop Overthrow’s annual event in Liverpool. 

Lee came up with the original chords and the chorus after watching a Dutch Garage band called The Kick.”  Rick provided the lyrical content and the result is a sharp burst of psychedelic scouse-pop brought to you via Manchester.

Rick particularly likes the quote delivered on where the song has been described as, ‘a Mersey Beat-esque jaunt that is effectively a call to arms, to rise and conquer the pain inflected by a broken heart’.

However you want to describe Beat Goes On, two things are certain. One is that El Gazelle know it is among their best songs, and two, its infectious chorus loops around the brain for hours on end.

El Gazelle’s story began as all five members became steeped in Manchester’s musical tradition during their teenage years. Although the quintet are happy to acknowledge the influence of the music from the city in which they have grown up, they have never been suffocated by it as other artists have. 

Singer Paul Wright told me: “I started off being into the whole Manchester thing as a 13-year-old and then being into The Beatles and The Stones and going into all the 60’s bands – The Doors, The Who, The Kinks etc.Just exciting rock n roll music you know.”

From speaking to all five members, I got the impression that in their teenage years they admired the likes of The Small Faces, The Byrds and 60’s Soul as much as they admired the likes of The Fall, Joy Division or The Happy Mondays. 

“We’ve all got good influences because we’ve all got dads who played the right music when we were six,” bassist Phil Lodge told me.

Paul and Rick recalled how growing up they would ‘sit for hours listening to records in Paul’s bedroom’ and from that their joint love of music grew. They then went on to explain to me how people would see the potential in Paul to become a front man before even he did – simply by the way he carried himself:

Paul: “I never really thought I’d do that, it was just something that I fell into.”

Rick (to Paul): “I think other people saw it in you before you did didn’t they…? Other people, when we’d go on a night out people would always say to Paul, ‘You should be a front man in a band.”

Paul: “I’ve always obviously been out having a laugh and whatever you want to call it, and I’ve always been up for having a good time and helping other people have a good time.  It’s like a natural thing for me.  When we started to get a band together, it was the natural thing for me to be the front-man.”

When the first tentative steps of forming a band were taken, after Paul had taken the singer role, Rick started out playing the drums. Eventually though, Rick felt ‘a desire to create something’ which lead him towards playing the guitar and writing songs instead. 

Phil, another friend of Paul and Rick, assumed the role of bassist when their first band was being formed.  The role was perfectly suited to what are now known in the band as ‘Phil’s Muscle-Fingers’, “Have you seen the size of them!” Phil asked, “It’s a bit of a no-brainer really!”

The band they formed, The Sleaze, was short lived and by the end of 2006 Paul, Rick and Phil had already parted ways with the rest of its members.  Not wanting to lose the momentum they had created however, they hooked up with guitarist Lee Morse in an attempt to start afresh as a band. 

Rick explained, “I’d had a few pissed-up conversations with Lee where he said ‘If you ever need another guitarist, I’ll do it.’”

Lee, after pretending to Rick that he only actually knew three chords on the guitar, somehow managed to bluff his way into the rehearsal room with the rest of the band. Once they were rehearsing though Lee’s talent became apparent. It was obvious he had been learning the guitar lines of Johnny Marr, John Squire and Noel Gallagher for the last ten years.  In the classic rock ‘n’ roll story manner – he was in.

All they needed now was a drummer. Lee suggested his mate from school, John Gagon, who was forever tapping various drum patterns on his desk when he should have been learning Pythagoras Theorem. Much to John’s disdain however, El Gazelle tried out another drummer first:

“Do you know what he did, this sh*thouse?” John exclaimed while pointing at Lee. “They (the rest of the band) asked him if he knew any good drummers? and Lee said, ‘I don’t know any good ones! But I’ve got a couple I can think of…’ didn’t even consider me! I was second on the list!.”

Paul: “but we had a guy, a drummer who dropped out, so we had to get John in….”

John: “He didn’t just drop out…he turned up with a Filofax!”

As El Gazelle developed and began to find their own sound, like any musical gang, they began scratching beneath the surface of each other’s record collections. Elektra Records indispensable compilation ‘Nuggets’ created an epiphany moment and opened up a world of new discoveries beyond that of the obvious 1960’s influences. 

Through this, their love of Psyche and Garage was born with bands like The Electric Prunes, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Sonics becoming essential listening.

If you combine the Nuggets influence with a hint of 60’s soul and a nod towards scouse heroes The Stairs, you are somewhere towards describing the sound of El Gazelle.  If we were pretending it was still the 60’s, El Gazelle would be at that perfect pop moment in mid-1966 where everyone was starting to look and sound psychedelic without delving into self-indulgence. Self-indulgence being something that El Gazelle loathes. 

John: “We’ve wrote songs that have been seven minutes long but we know no-ones interested.  No-one wants to see an un-signed band play a seven minute guitar solo.”

Singer Paul Wright has the last word on what El Gazelle should mean to people: “As a teenager you want your weekend to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend…still even now to this day I want my weekend to be a rock ‘n’ roll weekend. 

“A lot of people have boring jobs and it’s horrible, so you want to have a good time and for me music is a part of having a good time. That’s what influenced me…a good time, good music, good lyrics, exciting. We want to see a band and be instantly drawn in.  You want to be entertained and you want someone who’s on-it.”

“We want to do that with this band.”

Image courtesy of Little Red Promotions via YouTube, with thanks.

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